ANeSU teacher contract talks go to fact finding

BRISTOL — After five hours of mediation earlier this month, negotiations over contracts for teachers in Bristol-area schools concluded with no agreement and with no additional mediation sessions scheduled.
The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Bargaining Council on Dec. 10 issued a statement saying that “the parties will now select an impartial fact-finder and proceed to a fact-finding hearing. It is unlikely that this will occur any earlier than late January of 2016.”
Andrea Murnane, negotiator for the teachers union, known as the Addison Northeast Education Association  or ANEDA, was cautiously hopeful about the future of negotiations.
“As always, we remain committed to working with our boards to reach an agreement that is fair to us, our communities and students,” she said in a statement to the Independent. “While an agreement hasn’t been reached, we will continue to do our bargaining where we always do: at the table. We are confident that the next step in this process will lead us all closer to a settlement. In the meantime, my fellow members and I remain committed, first and foremost, to the children in the communities where we work.”
Murnane teaches fifth and sixth grade at Bristol Elementary School.
Negotiations on Dec. 2 were facilitated by a professional mediator and held in executive session. Meeting minutes show that negotiations began at 4:31 p.m. and concluded at 9:31 p.m.
Negotiations on the teacher contract, which expired June 30, began in February 2015, with 22 proposed contract changes from ANEDA and 27 proposed contract changes from the ANeSU boards. At the Sept. 1 negotiation session, both parties agreed to mutually declare an impasse.
According to the statement from the ANeSU Bargaining Council, as the process moves to fact finding, 34 proposed contract changes remain in dispute: 21 from teachers and 13 from the school boards. In an email to the Independent, Murnane said that ANEDA representatives “are hoping to meet with the board again in January to clarify the proposals prior to fact finding.”
According to Darren Allen, spokesman for the Vermont National Educators Association, although most teacher contract negotiations in Vermont are settled before the currently active contract is allowed to expire, it’s “not unusual” for negotiations to reach impasse, go to mediation, or go to fact finding.
Allen explained further that in the fact-finding process, both parties select a mutually agreeable neutral third party to whom they present their respective findings and positions.
“That person will then render a decision,” Allen said. “The fact finder will basically go, ‘Well, we agree with the association on X, Y and Z and we agree with the boards on A, B and C. Sometimes both sides will just accept the fact finding. Sometime one side will accept the fact finding and the other won’t.”
The fact finders recommendations, Allen said, are advisory, not binding; but “every step along the way is meant to nudge the parties to negotiate and reach a settlement.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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